Wednesday, September 04, 2019


Steve Benen reminds us that when President Trump says he's never heard of a Category 5 hurricane, he's echoing previous moments when he also said he'd never heard of a Category 5 hurricane:
And then, of course, there was his unexplained unfamiliarity with Category 5 hurricanes.
President Donald Trump said Sunday that he’s “not sure that (he’s) ever even heard of a Category 5” hurricane, despite four such storms – including Hurricane Dorian – having threatened the US since he took office.

“We don’t even know what’s coming at us. All we know is it’s possibly the biggest. I have – I’m not sure that I’ve ever even heard of a Category 5. I knew it existed. And I’ve seen some Category 4’s – you don’t even see them that much,” Trump said at a briefing with officials at FEMA’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

“But a Category 5 is something that – I don’t know that I’ve ever even heard the term other than I know it’s there.”
If the rhetoric seemed familiar, it wasn’t your imagination. It was two years ago this month when Trump first said, “I never even know a Category 5 existed.” The president has repeated the line and similar phrases several times since, including at an event four months ago.
Benen links to this tweet:

Benen writes:
... if he keeps saying he’s never heard of a Category 5 hurricane, after repeatedly being made aware of Category 5 hurricanes, it doesn’t reflect well on the president’s ability to learn and remember new information.
It's easy to believe that the president's mind isn't very sharp, but I don't believe that the problem is Trump's cognitive ability. Consider another odd moment in Trump's commentary on Hurricane Dorian, as noted by Benen:
... the president published a tweet including Alabama among the states “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” Twenty minutes later, the National Weather Service, while not referencing Trump specifically, published a tweet of its own, telling the public, “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.”

When news outlets noted the president’s error, Trump took great offense, insisting he was right, reality notwithstanding.
Why did Trump add Alabama to the list of states likely to be affected by the hurricane? I think it's because he has a psychological compulsion to exaggerate, even when the plain truth would be a compelling message. Back in July, CNN's Daniel Dale noted Trump's habit of doing this when talking about numbers:
For President Donald Trump, a big inaccurate number is almost always preferable to a slightly smaller accurate number. Even when the truth is in his favor, Trump tends to choose the lie.

Take prescription drug prices. They went down last year for the first time in 46 years, according to the Consumer Price Index.

"First time in 51 years that drug prices went down," Trump said in May. "First time in 53 years," he said at an event with Pakistan's prime minister on Monday.

Or take the unemployment rate for women. For three months, it has been at its lowest level in 66 years.

"With women, we have the best numbers we've had in now 71 years," Trump said in May. "Women: 75 years," he told his Cabinet last Tuesday.

Preliminary data released last week showed that overdose deaths had declined in 2018 for the first time in 28 years.

"It's dropped for the first time in more than 30 years," Trump said at his rally in North Carolina last Wednesday.
When Trump has good numbers to report, he compulsively makes them 5% better. When four states are in the projected path of a hurricane, he has to add a fifth state.

And when there's a Category 5 in the Atlantic, it's not enough that it's the worst kind of hurricane -- it has to be an unprecedented hurricane. I'm sure he'd like to call it a Category 6, but even he has his limits. (With so much weather news on television, we all know there's no such thing as a Category 6.)

I understand that Trump has been been a grubby, two-bit hustler for his entire adult life. He presumably learned this sales technique when he was very young and has continued using it for years.

But he's the president of the United States now. He's not selling members in some piss-elegant golf club in New Jersey. He should stop now. Except he can't.

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